A European Hamlet from 1929

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This article perceives Hamlet as a lieu de mémoire in Hungarian culture.Using Nora’s definition of ‘memory-place’ (1996), the article sees Hamlet as a skeleton in the closet of the cultural history of the Hungarian nation. This Hamletian skeleton can turn up at any time and in any form, sometimes in disguise, other times without much dissimulation. It appears in translations; revisions of translations; other,creative rewrites; allusions; and it lives in many fragments. There are many Hamlets in Hungarian culture, formulating a multi-layered and not easily decipherable palimpsest. The case study the article uses is a 1929 novel by Árpád Juhász (1894-1945), who was a poet, journalist and author of fiction. Dated just before the outbreak of the American stock market crisis, this ‘corporate’ or ‘capitalist’ version of the Hamlet theme (which is a forgotten piece of literature) is set against the backdrop of post World War 1 Europe. Hamlet, the Danish Prince (Hamlet, dán királyfi) shows and debates a post World War 1 European identity in the making, remapping Europe in cultural terms and indicating centre and periphery. Juhász’s Hamlet is a travelling intellectual, and the action taking place in various parts of Europe, following the titular and other characters’ travels. The chronotope (Bakhtin 1981) characterising this reworking of Hamlet is pluricultural and heterogeneous; the cosmopolitan European city and the margins of the continent are both emphatic. The text ‘holds up a mirror’ to Hungary and Budapest, giving a rather ambiguous reflection. This rewrite re-affirms Hamlet’s role as a ‘text of identity’ (Shotter and Gergen 1989) for Europeans as well as Hungarians. It is an informative specimen of modern-day capitalising on the acculturation of Shakespeare and his exemplary, primus inter pares play, Hamlet. The article appeared in a collection on reworkings of Shakespeare (collaborating with Shakespeare) across centuries and nations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationShakespeare and His Collaborators over the Centuries
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2008


  • adaptation
  • novelisation
  • shakespeare


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